Gardening Question of the Day

I'm intrigued by the idea of a cutting garden, but I'm uncertain how one keeps such a garden generating new flowers. Any advice?

Different gardeners have different ideas about what a cutting garden should be, but generally speaking, it includes unpretentious rows of flowers, sometimes added to a large vegetable garden, that are intended to be decimated. They are the overflow, beyond the more formal borders, edgings, and patio beds that you want to keep looking their best. A cutting garden is best situated in some sunny, out-of-the-way spot. A skilled gardener will plan successive plantings to provide a steady supply of cuttings as the summer progresses. Some good choices for cutting gardens are the taller, longer-stemmed, not-so-neat varieties of flowers that adorn a bouquet but can make a formal border look disheveled. They may be annuals or perennials. Shasta daisies, feverfew, baby's breath, statice, zinnias, cosmos, strawflowers, poppies, delphiniums, sweet peas, and ornamental grasses are all good choices.

Last 7 Days

How should I prune oleanders?

The best time for pruning an oleander is right after flowering in late spring or early summer. Prune it back by one-third, using hand tools to remove one branch at a time. Prune out any branches killed over the winter as well.

What causes my otherwise great black raspberries to have little dry, brown spots on the berry?

What you're seeing is probably the result of wasps, hornets, stinkbugs or other bucks helping themselves to the juice inside the little drupelets. They can suck out the juice in just a few of these and leave the rest of the berry intact. If it gets out of hand, consider protecting your bush with fine netting.

I'm putting up an eight-foot cedar fence to shelter a brick patio area from the north winds. What can I grow on its shady side?

We assume you're looking for a climbing vine, as opposed to a ground cover or shrub, although you could certainly use all three. To climb the cedar poles, your best bet might be winter creeper (Euonymus fortunei radicans), which can extend up to 12 feet and is a hardy evergreen vine for Zone 5 (and even somewhat north of that). It shows a glossy, variegated leaf and thrives in partial or full shade and ordinary soil. It's a member of the bittersweet family, but it displays a pale pink fruit and greenish white flowers. If you want something more fragrant, you might try a shade-loving clematis vine. Unlike the large-flowered clematis plants that love sun, 'Sweet Autumn' clematis is well adapted for shade and known for its autumn fragrance and small white flowers. It likes rich, well-drained soil. Prune it back for winter; you'll want new growth in the spring. As for shrubs and ground covers, there's no end to the shade-loving varieties.

Last season's mulch has a whitish yellow fungus-type covering on it. What is this?

Most mulches are mixtures of shredded wood and bark residues, and they decompose over time. Fungi and bacteria always accompany the decomposing process. Sometimes the fungi become visible. You may be dealing with a "slime mold," which is usually bright yellow or orange and can grow from several inches to more than a foot in diameter. This type of mold will dry out and turn brown, leaving a white powder behind. If you want to get rid of the slime, you can dump it in your compost pile or household garbage.

Which herbs grow best in shady places?

Some herbs that work well in shade are feverfew, horseradish, pennyroyal, parsley, chamomile, vervain, hyssop, and rue.

My gooseberry bush has been doing poorly in recent years. Any suggestions?

You should have two inches of soil around the plant and give it an inch of water a week if the weather has been dry. Feed it with a granular organic fertilizer.

If I want to make my own salsa, what should I plant?

Salsa recipes are as varied as those for tomato sauce, but the basics include two or three types of chili peppers--hot or mild--and tomatillos, tomato-like fruits with papery husks that come from Mexico. The tomatoes for your salsa can be almost any variety or a combination. Cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes, or the larger beefsteak versions are all acceptable. Some recipes call for green tomatoes. You should also grow some garlic and onions.

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